Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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Guest Post: Preventing Conflict Escalation and State Collapse in Libya

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Newly-graduated Libyan police officers march during their graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on June 8, 2015. (Zitouny/Reuters) Newly-graduated Libyan police officers march during their graduation ceremony in Tripoli, Libya, on June 8, 2015. (Zitouny/Reuters)

Samantha Andrews is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Sunday, the United States carried out an airstrike in Libya that reportedly killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and mastermind behind the 2013 seizure of an Algerian gas plant that killed thirty-eight hostages. Since the collapse of the Muammar al-Qadaffi regime in 2011, Libya has experienced an unprecedented level of instability and violence, fostering a safe haven for international terrorists like Belmokhtar. Read more »

Guest Post: Looking Forward on UN Peacekeepers Day

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Members of the armed forces of the Philippines contingent joining the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti salute during a sending-off ceremony at the Villamor air base in Manila on September 22, 2014. (Ranoco/Reuters) Members of the armed forces of the Philippines contingent joining the UN Peacekeeping Force in Haiti salute during a sending-off ceremony at the Villamor air base in Manila on September 22, 2014. (Ranoco/Reuters)

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2002, the UN General Assembly designated May 29 as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers to honor current and former peacekeepers, and well as those who have lost their lives. In the sixty-seven years since the first peacekeeping mission was established, more than one million people have served in seventy-one peacekeeping operations, and 3,358 military, police, and civilian personnel died while serving. Read more »

Guest Post: Promoting a Ukraine-EU Agenda on Human Trafficking

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters) Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko shakes hands with European Council president Donald Tusk before the Eastern Partnership Summit session in Riga, Latvia on May 22, 2015. (Kalnins/Reuters)

Luke Drabyn is a former intern for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ukraine has one of the highest levels of human trafficking in Europe. Over 120,000 Ukrainian men, women, and children have been exploited for labor and sex since the country became independent in 1991. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Riga, Latvia provides a valuable forum to discuss collaboration on human trafficking between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine. For Ukraine, successful reform and a display of leadership could instill trust among its disillusioned citizens. For the EU, fulfilling its commitments under the 2012–2016 Strategy Toward the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings could protect it from criticism. Many of the EU’s 90 migration-related projects to non-EU countries since 2012 have included anti-trafficking provisions. However, none address trafficking in Ukraine specifically. At its most basic level, human trafficking—the second most lucrative illicit industry worldwide—is a moral issue that contributes to the collective “deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement” for vulnerable men, women, and children alike. Ukraine-EU collaboration on human trafficking would not only be mutually beneficial, but it is also feasible, and the EaP Summit provides this opportunity. Read more »

Guest Post: Stuck Between Maduro and a Hard Place

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a military parade on February 4, 2015 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of late President Hugo Chavez’s failed coup attempt in Caracas. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters) Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a military parade on February 4, 2015 to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of late President Hugo Chavez’s failed coup attempt in Caracas. (Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Brian Garrett-Glaser is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Venezuela is experiencing a protracted political and economic crisis that is likely to worsen in the next twelve to eighteen months. Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked successor of former President Hugo Chávez, inherited leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela—the party of the Bolivarian Revolution—in 2013 after Chávez succumbed to cancer. Maduro narrowly won the presidency in a special election that year, campaigning with the slogan “we are all Chávez” and referring to himself as the “son of Chávez.” But as his predecessor’s economic policies are increasingly blamed for Venezuela’s crisis, Maduro’s unwavering commitment to Chávez’ legacy is proving to be disastrous. Read more »

Guest Post: U.S. Interest in Tunisia’s Successful Democratic Transition

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko

Brian Garrett-Glaser is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Tunisia’s transition to inclusive democracy is not a fait accompli. Despite holding successful 2014 elections and recently receiving a “free” rating for political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House, the small North African nation is struggling with significant economic and security challenges as well as eroding popular support for democratic reforms. The Jasmine Revolution, which ousted Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in early 2011 and sparked a wave of protests across the Middle East, was as much a call for better economic conditions and stability as democracy and human rights. Yet, absent the expansion of economic opportunities and improved security, democratic reforms in Tunisia will not satiate the previous demands for change. Read more »

Guest Post: Looming Succession Crisis in Zimbabwe

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe addresses a crowd gathered for his 91st birthday celebration on February 28, 2015. (Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters) Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe addresses a crowd gathered for his 91st birthday celebration on February 28, 2015. (Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Helia Ighani is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week, the United States extended sanctions on Zimbabwe’s “president for life”—Robert Gabriel Mugabe—who recently turned ninety-one. He has been Zimbabwe’s only ruler since the country gained independence from Rhodesia in 1980 after more than a decade of war. However, his presidential reign will end and the world should be ready for the likely unstable aftermath. Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing Cultural Destruction by ISIS

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The Assyrian city of Nimrud before it was looted and bulldozed by Islamic State fighters. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons) The Assyrian city of Nimrud before it was looted and bulldozed by Islamic State fighters. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Aliza Litchman is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

The U.S.-led coalition has been unsuccessful in halting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS or ISIL) second largest revenue stream: illegal artifacts. A March 6 UNESCO report attempted to call attention to the ISIS’ bulldozing of the three thousand-year-old city of Nimrud, and a February 25 video shows ISIS militants ransacking the central museum in Mosul. However, the most damage to Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage is not inflicted with bulldozers and sledgehammers, but through illegal sales in foreign markets, which have thus far provided ISIS with over $100 million U.S. officials estimate. Antiquities dealings are ISIS’ second largest source of funding, and control of over four thousand archaeological sites ensures this revenue source will not expire. Read more »

Guest Post: Booking a Return Flight

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014. (FBI handout via Reuters/Courtesy Reuters) A masked man speaking in what is believed to be a North American accent in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014. (FBI handout via Reuters/Courtesy Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken on an international flavor as foreign fighters continue to pour into Syria and Iraq from eighty nations as disparate as Kyrgyzstan and Spain. The number of foreign fighters is currently estimated to be as high as 16,000. While the most foreign fighters originate from Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, up to 2,000 are from the United Kingdom (UK), 930 from France, 300 from Sweden, 300 from Belgium, and 450 from Germany. The growing scope of the foreign fighter problem has made it a priority in policy discussions on ISIS, either as Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution wrote, “Homeward Bound? Don’t Hype the Threat of Returning Jihadists,” or as Pascale Siegel, founder of Insight Through Analysis, warned, “Foreign Fighters in Syria: Why We Should Be Worried.” These discussions ignore the real question—what happens when these people want to return to their home countries? Read more »

Guest Post: Chinese Troops in Africa: Protecting Civilians and Oil

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters) The national flags of South Sudan and China are displayed in front of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Ibuki/Courtesy Reuters)

Sean J. Li is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China announced in September that it would send a battalion of seven-hundred infantry soldiers to reinforce the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), a heretofore unprecedented move that triples its troop contribution. It is suspected by commentators, such as Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy, that this commitment was made to shield the oil industry—which both UNMISS and the Chinese Foreign Ministry have denied. The increased international profile of Chinese national oil companies (NOCs) and other commercial interests, especially in Africa, has raised questions about whether China’s long-standing principle of non-interference will hold in the future. Read more »

Guest Post: The U.S. Role in Recruiting and Retaining Female Peacekeepers

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Italian UN peacekeepers stand as honour guards during a visit by Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata to the Italian UN Interim Force in Lebanon. (Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters) Italian UN peacekeepers stand as honour guards during a visit by Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata to the Italian UN Interim Force in Lebanon. (Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters)

Amelia M. Wolf is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action and the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

During the frenzy of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, thirty-one countries met on September 26 for a summit on “Strengthening International Peace Operations,” during which the importance of expanding the participation of women in peacekeeping operations was the theme. Read more »